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Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Sexual Reawakening of an Older Woman With a Younger Man: Movie: Bright Days Ahead

In a prior article, Overcoming Lack of Intimacy: Movie: Hope Springs, I discussed the main characters' (Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones) long term sexless marriage and the wife's attempts to recharge their sexual life in the context of this issue being a common problem in many long term marriages.

Looking at Misconceptions and Stereotypes About Older Women

Looking at Misconceptions and Stereotypes About Older Women
I recently went to see the movie, Bright Days Ahead (Les Beaux Jours), a French movie starring Frances Ardant (Truffant's The Woman Next Door), Patrick Chesnais (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), Laurent Lafitte, and directed by Marion Vernoux.

Bright Days Ahead is about a 60 year old woman, Caroline (Ardant), as she is coming to terms with the unexpected death of a close friend who was close to her age, and a long-term marriage that is loving and comfortable but without passion.

After the shock of her friend's sudden death, Caroline decides to retire from her dental practice to reassess her life.  Her well-meaning daughter gives her a gift in the form of a membership to a senior center, which is called Bright Days Ahead, to help Caroline fill her time.

Initially, Caroline is put off by the condescending instructors and the activities for seniors at Bright Days Ahead which have no meaning for her.  She feels above it and she is ready to dismiss the idea of attending the center.  But when she meets the computer instructor,  Julien  (Lafitte), who is a handsome, sexy man in his late 30s, she has second thoughts.

After Julien comes on to her, Caroline begins a May-December sexual affair with him as part of her  sexual and emotional reawakening.

I won't give away the rest of the plot.

Although Bright Days Ahead and Ardant's character are not without their flaws, it's rare to find a movie about an attractive, poised, confident woman in her early 60s, who rediscovers her sexual passion and who has no illusions about this younger man or about the sexual affair.

I think there will be some cultural issues for American audiences, who will probably be more judgmental about the infidelity and how it affects Caroline's husband and their relationship.  I admit that I felt myself bristle at how Caroline carried on this affair, even going to places where she risked running into friends of hers and her husband's, and potentially hurting her husband and her marriage.

But, if you're able to put these issues aside for a moment (no easy task, I know), I think the movie has a lot to say to counter the stereotypes of older woman being unattractive, sexless beings who are destined to be "put out to pasture" when they reach their 60s (see my article: Making Peace with the Aging Process).

Of course, you don't have to have a sexual affair to reawaken the passion in your life, whether it's sexual passion or a passion for life in general.

When I was a child, I thought 60 was very old.  Part of this was based on seeing the way my grandmother aged.  At the time, I didn't know how sick she was and how this affected the aging process for her.  But, even so, in my grandmother's day, people thought of themselves as being old by the time they were in their 60s.  And it wasn't unusual for men, who retired at 65, to only live a few years after their retirement.

These days, people who are in relatively good health, are living past their 80s and 90s.  Many people retire now and start new careers.  Often, they decide to take a new career path in a field that they find more meaningful than their original careers.  Or, they take up a new hobby that they didn't have time for before.

As Americans, we're obsessed with youth and staying young.  I think Bright Days Ahead challenges many ideas about aging, relationships, what's "appropriate" when it comes to younger and older lovers and for this alone, I think it's worth seeing this movie.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me:

Also see: Indiewire interview with Fanny Ardant about Bright Days Ahead

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